The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Sixty-Ninth Day: Wednesday, 27th February, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[Page 27]

Q. Would you be kind enough to relate this to the Tribunal?

A. In June 1943, by order of Metropolitan Alexei, I went to visit the districts of Old Peterhof and Oranienbaum. From personal observations and from my conversations with the members of the church I learned the following, which I know to be true, and which has all been corroborated later on when New Peterhof was freed from the German occupation. All that I shall now relate can be verified.

In Old Peterhof soon after the Germans had destroyed New Peterhof, within exactly ten days, all churches were destroyed by the enemy's artillery fire and aircraft. At the same time the Luftwaffe and German artillery timed their bombardments so that not only would the churches be demolished, but the worshippers at those churches who sought refuge in them be killed as well.

All the churches in Old Peterhof, namely the Znamenska Church, the Holy Trinity Cemetery Church and the small Church of Lazarus attached to it, the church-museum at the Villa of Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Serafimovskij Church and the Church of the Military Cemetery - all these were destroyed by the Germans. I can state with certainty that in the vicinity of the Cemetery Church of the Holy Trinity and the Lazarus Church, in their crypts, as well as in the cemetery tombs and vaults of the Znamenska church, more than 5,000 persons perished. The Germans would not let the survivors come outside. It is easy to picture the sanitary conditions and the general state of the people, confined in those church crypts. Air fouled by the crowded human beings, human excreta, people frightened to death. They fainted, they grew dizzy; but the slightest attempt on their part to leave the dank crypts and come out into fresh air, was punished by shots from the inhuman fascists.

Much time has already passed since then but I remember especially well one instance, which a close relative of the victim related to me. A little girl came out of the crypt of Trinity Church for a breath of fresh air, she was immediately shot by a German airman. The mother followed the child wishing to pick her up, but

[Page 28]

she also fell down, bleeding, on top of the body of her child. The citizen Pomasheva, who related this to me, is still alive, and I have seen her many times - she recalls this incident with horror.

And many were the incidents of that kind.

Q. Tell me, Witness, in the other districts of the Leningrad Region, did you ever witness the desecration of shrines and other sacred objects?

A. Yes, for example in Pskov. Pskov presented a horrible picture of ruins and devastation. I feel that I must recall to your Honours that Pskov is a museum city, a city of the relies of the orthodox faith, ornamented by numerous churches, and situated on the Velikaya river and its tributaries.

In that city, there were no less than sixty churches of various sizes and various denominations. Thirty-nine of these were not only priceless monuments of church architecture of high artistic value, with beautiful ikons and frescoes, but also wonderful historical monuments, reflecting all the greatness and age-long multiform history of the Russian people. . . . A Kremlin (walled city). . . . The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

Q. Well, what happened to those churches?

A. That is just what I want to relate. Kremlin . . . . The Holy Trinity Cathedral, with its remarkable altar screen (Iconostas) . . . . The whole church was plundered by the German soldiers. Everything was carried out of it, as well as out of all the other churches in the city. You will find not even a single tiny ikon left, not a single church vestment or sacramental vessel - all has been taken away by the Germans. I almost paid with my life for my visit to this cathedral. Just half an hour before my arrival a mine exploded right in front of the altar-gates. The gates were destroyed: the communion table was spattered with blood. Before my own eyes I saw three of our Soviet soldiers who had perished in the explosion, right in front of the altar screen. Mines were also laid in other places. I could give other interesting details.

Pskov was liberated from the Germans in August 1944, but on Epiphany Day in January 1946 another mine exploded, killing two persons. The church of St. Vasili on the Hill was also mined. There a mine was laid at the very entrance to the church. In all the churches the abundance of all kinds of refuse, dirt, bottles, tins, etc., was strikingly noticeable. The Cathedral of St. John's Monastery was turned into a stable by the Germans. In another church, the church of the Epiphany, they set up a wine-cellar. In a third church I saw a fuel depot - for coal, turf, etc. But why speak of individual churches. Wherever we turn, our hearts bleed at the spectacle of all the suffering, of all the plunder, wrought by people, who boasted all over Europe about their culture, who despised mankind while some proclaimed their belief in God. What kind of faith is theirs!

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I have no more questions to ask the witness.

WITNESS: I would like to ask your permission to say a few more words about what happened in Leningrad.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: With regard to that, you must ask the Tribunal.

WITNESS: I am slightly diverging from the usual order. I beg your permission, your Honours.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, go on.

WITNESS: The Church of Nicola Bogoiavlensky is the Cathedral of Leningrad. The Metropolitan Alexei lived at this church during the siege. Since I served there, from July 1942 to the end of the war, I witnessed on numerous occasions, artillery fire directed at the Cathedral. One wonders what kind of military objective those 'heroic' warriors could find in our holy church! On high feast days or ordinary Sundays, immediately the artillery fire would begin. And what

[Page 29]

fire! In the first week of Lent in 1943, from the early morning until late at night, neither we the clergy nor the worshippers praying in the church could possibly leave it. Outside was death and destruction. With my own eyes, I saw some fifty persons - I do not know exactly how many - members of my congregation, killed near the church. They tried to leave in haste before the "all-clear" signal, and death met them. In this sacred cathedral I had to bury thousands of persons torn to pieces, victims of the predatory raids of the air force and artillery. An ocean of tears was shed here during the memorial services.

During one of the bombardments, His Grace the Metropolitan Alexei, escaped death by a hair's breadth, as several shell fragments smashed his cell.

I would just like to add, not wishing to take up too much of your time, that it is a remarkable thing that the most intensive artillery fire always took place on feast days. The Houses of God, tramway stops and hospitals seemed to be the special target of the German air force and artillery. The homes of peaceful citizens were bombed.

It would take too long, your Honours, to relate everything which I saw during these grim days of blood and suffering.

But I just want to say in conclusion that the Russian people and the people of Leningrad have fulfilled their duty to their Fatherland. In spite of the heavy artillery fire and raids of the Luftwaffe, there was great efficiency and order, and the Orthodox Church shared in this suffering. By prayer and preaching of God's word, she tried to bring consolation and give courage to the faithful. She has laid an unsparing sacrifice on the altars of the Fatherland.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I have no more questions to ask the witness, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the other members of the prosecution wish to ask any questions?

(The answer was in the negative.)

Do any of the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

(The answer was in the negative.)

Then the witness can retire.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Your Honours, in his Note of 6th January, 1942, the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR declared that the Soviet Government considered it a duty of conscience to inform the "entire civilised world and all honest people throughout the world" of the monstrous crimes committed by the Hitlerite bandits.

In the battles of this war, the greatest ever fought by men, millions of honest people achieved victory over Fascist Germany. The will of millions of honest people created this International Tribunal for the purpose of judging the War Criminals. Behind him each representative of the prosecution feels the invisible support of these millions of honest people, in whose name he accuses the leaders of the Fascist conspiracy.

The honour of concluding the presentation of the evidence submitted by the Soviet prosecution has fallen to my lot.

I know that at this very moment millions of citizens of my country and with them millions of honest persons throughout the world await your just and speedy verdict. May I conclude with this.

MR. DODD: May it please the Tribunal, I have a few matters that will take just a very few minutes, with respect to the record.

In the course of the presentation of the 23rd day of November, 1945, pertaining to the economic aspects of the conspiracy, certain documents were read from, but they were not formally offered in evidence. At the time the Tribunal indicated

[Page 30]

that sufficient time had not been allowed counsel for the defence to make an examination of these documents, and we did not offer them, and said instead that we would make them available in the defendants' Information Centre. We did so, and they have been there ever since. They should be formally offered and as the extracts were read, there is no necessity for going through that again. They are as follows:

The first one referred to in the record was one bearing the number EC-14, which we offer as Exhibit USA 758. Extracts from this document were quoted on Page 137, Part I of the record.

The next one is EC-27, which we offer as Exhibit USA 759. Extracts from this document were quoted on Page 129, Part I of the record.

The third one isEC-28, which we offer as Exhibit USA 760; extracts from this document were quoted on Page 127, Part I of the record.

EC-174 was quoted from on Page 141, Part I of the record. We offer that as Exhibit USA 761.

EC-252. Extracts from it were quoted on Page 140, Part I of the record. We offer it as Exhibit USA 762.

EC-257. Extracts from this document were quoted on Page 140, Part I of the record. We offer it as Exhibit USA 763

EC-404- We summarised and quoted from this document on Page 134, Part I of the record. We now offer it as Exhibit USA 764.

D-157 was read from, on Page 133, Part I of the record, and we now offer it as Exhibit USA 765.

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